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Tyler

Side Effects

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Just received an invitation to the press screening, which includes this Psycho-like instruction:

PLEASE READ:Due to the non-linear nature of this film, no one will be admitted to the screening once it has started. This is at the request of the filmmakers and there will be no exceptions. If you arrive after the film begins, you will not be allowed to enter.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Tyler, I think I might have to steal your line, email it to the publicist, and see if it gets me banned for life.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Wow, this new interview with Soderbergh goes on forever. But it's packed with interesting stuff. I cheered when I read which of his films satisfies him most. And I was even more pleased to find out what new filmmaker has impressed him.

But watch out. There's a whopper of a spoiler for Side Effects just casually described in this conversation.

Here's a spoiler-free excerpt:

What else has gotten worse?

The worst development in filmmaking—particularly in the last five years—is how badly directors are treated. It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly. It’s not just studios—it’s anyone who is ­financing a film. I guess I don’t understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what

the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way. And probably got into making movies ­because of being in that audience.

But an alarming thing I learned during Contagion is that the people who pay to make the movies and the audiences who see them are actually very much in sync. I remember during previews how upset the audience was by the Jude Law character. The fact that he created a sort of mixed reaction was viewed as a flaw in the filmmaking. Not, “Oh, that’s interesting, I’m not sure if this guy is an asshole or a hero.” People were really annoyed by that. And I thought, Wow, so ambiguity is not on the table anymore. They were angry.

Critics used to have the role of standing up for ambiguity. But you’ve never been a fan of film critics.

It’s what Dave Hickey said: It’s air guitar, ultimately. Was it helpful to read Pauline Kael’s work when I was growing up? Absolutely. For a teenager who was beginning to look at movies as something other than just entertainment, her reviews were really interesting. But at a certain point, it’s not useful anymore. I stopped reading reviews of my own films after Traffic, and I find it hard to read any critics now because they are just so easily fooled. From a directorial standpoint, you can’t throw one by me. I know if you know what you’re doing, and, “Wow, critics”—their reading of filmmaking is very superficial. Look, nothing excites me more than a good film. It makes me want to make something good. But I have certain standards, and I don’t grade on a curve. If you want to be a director, I’m going to treat you like I treat everybody. So it’s frustrating when critics praise things that I feel are not up to snuff.

Do you think it’s deteriorated since Kael?

No. I think her reading of that stuff was pretty superficial as well. She had a great gift for setting movies in cultural context, but what set her apart from most critics—and especially a lot of critics today—was that she was at her absolute best when she loved something. And that was exciting to read. Nowadays, I find critics to be very facile when they don’t like a film, but when they do like something they get tongue-tied.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Steven Soderbergh on Quitting Hollywood, Getting the Best Out of J-Lo, and His Love of Girls

A few days before that big birthday, with his mission accomplished (his last theatrical release, Side Effects, comes out next week), Mary Kaye Schilling met with Soderbergh in his office and painting studio near the Flatiron Building, where he talked about cribbing from Lucian Freud, his love of Girls, and why movies don’t matter so much anymore.

So, retirement.

Just to be clear, I won’t be directing “cinema,” for lack of a better word. But I still plan to direct — theater stuff, and I’d do a TV series if something great were to come along. . . .

It’s a combination of wanting a change personally and of feeling like I’ve hit a wall in my development that I don’t know how to break through. The tyranny of narrative is beginning to frustrate me, or at least narrative as we’re currently defining it. I’m convinced there’s a new grammar out there somewhere. But that could just be my form of theism. . . .

Vulture, New York, January 29

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yesterday I saw an Indiewire tweet equating this film to a Brian De Palma movie. I Googled "De Palma Side Effects" just now and found some reviews that draw the same comparison, for better or worse.

I saw Side Effects last night and look forward to discussing it, especially the De Palma comparisons, which have me thinking about our dedicated De Palma thread (which I can't find now using our search engine), my professed admiration of the filmmaker, and elements of several of his stories that I realize only now I pretty much overlooked in discussing De Palma's films and their effect on me.

For the record, this film seems much closer to a Soderbergh film to me than it does to a De Palma film. It's easy to see De Palma elements in the story, but it's hard to imagine De Palma directing this particular story. That doesn't mean this is quintessential Soderbergh, only that I think it's closer to Soderbergh than it is to De Palma. For whatever that's worth.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Yesterday I saw an Indiewire tweet equating this film to a Brian De Palma movie. I Googled "De Palma Side Effects" just now and found some reviews that draw the same comparison, for better or worse.

I saw Side Effects last night and look forward to discussing it, especially the De Palma comparisons, which have me thinking about our dedicated De Palma thread (which I can't find now using our search engine), my professed admiration of the filmmaker, and elements of several of his stories that I realize only now I pretty much overlooked in discussing De Palma's films and their effect on me.

For the record, this film seems much closer to a Soderbergh film to me than it does to a De Palma film. It's easy to see De Palma elements in the story, but it's hard to imagine De Palma directing this particular story. That doesn't mean this is quintessential Soderbergh, only that I think it's closer to Soderbergh than it is to De Palma. For whatever that's worth.

Here's the thread for you. Not to be condescending or pedantic, I know lots of folks are having trouble with the search engine, but I just searched "de palma" in quotation marks and found the thread 3/4 of the way down. Quotation marks seem to be the way to search for short phrases. Also, going into advanced search and searching just titles can help too.

How does SIDE EFFECTS compare to the last few Soderbergh films? I liked HAYWIRE and CONTAGION much more than I had initially thought I would and am looking forward to this one.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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FWIW, when I came out of the screening the first thing I said was the I enjoyed the first half of the movie better than the De Palma half of the movie, when the film's larger interest in the world of pharmaceutical testing narrows into a lurid and disappointingly familiar kind of scandal/mystery.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Anders: I'm not sure I'm allowed to say how the film compares with the two you listed, as that may constitute a shared opinion, which is not allowed. But my honest answer is that, although I suspect I know where I'd place it in comparison to those films, I can't say for sure because I haven't given Side Effects enough time and thought yet.

Ryan: Yes. Even if you come away disappointed, you won't regret seeing it before you start hearing it discussed. And I do think it will be discussed by those who see it, even if I'm not sure how deep and wide the pool of potential viewers is for this one.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Richard Brody @ New Yorker:

The story has some conspicuously Hitchcockian elements—an ordinary man drawn into a lonely and perilous vortex of crime and violence, as well as certain fairly famous themes and tropes of plot construction that bear the master’s mark—but it’s no pastiche or neoclassical homage. Rather, Soderbergh shapes the film to respond to his own personal concerns, and, in doing so, gets to the very heart of why, in the midst of an exhilarating whirl of cinematic creation (such as “
” and “
”), he’s stopping the carousel and getting off. The story is about the very production of stories. The life that the financier and his wife were leading prior to the arrest was a glorious fiction that was dispelled before their eyes. The ripping away of the illusory story to reveal the real one was a psychological shock that then gave rise to more stories. The psychiatrist listens to his patient’s stories and interprets them, helps her to cope with them. Lawyers hear a client’s story, helps her to craft a version of it that is then presented to judges and juries, who, in turn, evaluate them. And the psychiatrist, hypothesizing and probing in his one-man investigation, comes up with stories and counter-stories and sees which one he can make stick. . . .

So the story of “Side Effects” is a good one, and it fits in with Soderbergh’s demonstrated range of cinematic obsessions, but who cares? Apparently, not Soderbergh—not really. He’s the movie’s director—but he’s also its cinematographer and its editor (as he has been on most of his movies for the last fifteen years or so). The movie bears witness to the filmmaker’s sheer cinematic joy, his delight in holding the camera, looking through the camera, making images—and of being surprised by them all over again in the editing room. Shot by shot, the movie, for all its tightly ratcheted suspense and closely calibrated surprises, feels like a loose-limbed, freewheeling improvisation, albeit one—with its high-relief close-ups and its swingingly agile compositions—that is driven by its leader and central consciousness, everywhere present, nowhere visible. . . .

It’s easy to see what the problem is. “Side Effects” is a lesson in hands-on cinema, in eyes-there moviemaking, in first-person practice with the matter of the art, like a sculptor’s way with clay or marble. Looking through the camera and making images is an exhilaration, but the story—even though it’s a good one—hardly matters. So much of filmmaking is taken up by what’s called storytelling, when in fact the best moviemakers like to look and to show, to make images in order to see them. The script is the cinema’s albatross. Not that Soderbergh is against storytelling—with Spalding Gray, he filmed it in its pure form. But the very notion of defining life in terms of stories—and movies in terms of storytelling—is painfully and unfaithfully narrowing. Experience is filled with perception and mood, of desire and of sensation, that may arise from stories and may give rise to stories but that aren’t themselves stories. The same is true of images and sounds. Soderbergh’s palpable thrill, more primal than that of a thriller’s plot, is in turning the camera on and seeing the world anew—seeing some strange, sudden intersection of the world as it is and the world of one’s own inner vision. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A few comments (I don't think they're outright spoileriffic, but they hint at the overall approach of the film):

1) Since Brian De Palma's name has been brought up in regards to this film, I'd like to say that SIDE EFFECTS has practically nothing De Palma-esque about it, either in form or in content.

2) Thomas Newman's score, which has been praised in many of the reviews, disappointed me. It's so ambient that it often fades into a sort of background hum. I was expecting something with a stronger presence, like John Barry's score for BODY HEAT or Jerry Goldsmith's score for BASIC INSTINCT.

3) The films to which SIDE EFFECTS pays homage--such as FATAL ATTRACTION, which Soderbergh cites in a recent interview--were pungent because of the ways in which they viscerally mingled sexual desire and violence. SIDE EFFECTS lacks the same power not just because Soderbergh isn't a very visceral filmmaker, but because the narrative itself doesn't make those elements a priority. The stakes in this thriller aren't high enough to give the events urgency.

4) Materialism and financial success drive this film as much as they drove THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I agree with 3 and 4, Ryan. But why did I think of De Palma specifically while watching the movie? Why did others do the same, apparently?

I think it has something to do with, to use your words, "the ways in which they viscerally mingled sexual desire and violence" (Femme Fatale, Passion, Body Double, Dressed to Kill).

Sure, the comparison only goes so far. Perhaps I might have come up with another filmmaker who better fits the mold.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I guess what kinda got to me about the comparison is that it seemed to me that De Palma's name was being used as shorthand for "erotic thriller" (this sense was perhaps heightened by the fact that reviews have tended to be very vague, so they haven't been able to explain what they really mean by throwing De Palma's name into the mix). Yes, De Palma is known for his erotic thrillers, but his erotic thrillers are nevertheless pretty unique films, so when I hear "De Palma," I think of something pretty specific. The tropes at play in SIDE EFFECTS seem fairly generic to me.

But maybe I haven't given the comparison a fair shake. SIDE EFFECTS does have an interest in urban environment that is shared by a number of De Palma's thrillers (SISTERS, DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT), and, like De Palma, cites Hitchcock (the opening shot, which is lifted straight from PSYCHO). And now that I think about it, the apartment murder in SIDE EFFECTS has pretty strong echoes of SISTERS.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Just saw it and found it mostly enjoyable.

As has been noted, it is definitely two films: the first one an ethical prescription drug drama, and the second one a decently interesting (if not particularly original) thriller/myster. And there is a clunky courtroom transition scene where the film very noticeably switches gears. At this point, I thought it was going to turn into a courtroom drama a la Witness for the Prosecution, which may or may not have been more interesting than what actually follwed. If Soderbergh had developed the characters and ethical questions even more, making the movie longer, he could easily have put an intermission in between the two halves, which would have been a smoother transition than the sudden legal turn follwed by a sudden thriller turn.

I thought some of the foreshadowing of the mystery was a bit heavy handed. Specifically the close-ups on

the officer's tag and the Ablixa pen from Zeta-Jones. Actually, when she first offered Law the pen in such a drawn out manner, I figured out that her recommendation of the drug was important and that she was somehow going to be the antagonist. Although I did not figure out how much Mara was going to be involved.

My other concern is that this is the second recent film in which Rooney Mara removes all her clothes for a fairly explicit sex scene(s). From her work here, in The Social Network, and even in Dragon Tattoo, she clearly has the ability to become a very good actress, but I hope she doesn't equate that with filming nude sex scenes.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I was loving this movie, til the twist came. Rooney's excellent performance playing a woman struggling with depression, and Jude Law's struggle to help her, was a powerful pairing. But then it became a cliche mystery, and after watching the excellent Silver Lining's Playbook which deals powerfully with depression, I was hoping for something like that. At first I found myself willing to forgive it and such. But then I felt it was really a cop-out.

Soderbergh gets off though since it wasn't his script, and he and Newman take the script and make it a whole lot better than it could have been.

That said, it saddens me this is the last we will be seeing of a great director. A pretty mediocre film to go out on.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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hm, the interview saw even had Soderbergh himself say it was his last movie he directed. I suppose that means he directed Behind the Candelabra before this one, but that it will come out after.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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I liked it quite a bit. At first the initial twist wasn't working for me when it moved away from the depression elements. Yet as the story continued to unfold it grabbed ahold of me again. I have to admit that I wasn't tracking completely with the story near the end though.

At the end was she in a psych hospital or a prison? Did they believe what she had just previously said about not being sick? If so how is it possible that the other lady was convicted of foul play and not her? Also how then does it work out then that Jude Law's character gets back with his wife? I mean under the view that she was really sick then the film never clearly says that the affair was disproven.

I mean I know that it was disproven by my common sense logic... but the film really never tells us that, does it? There are a few things that come across as a little bit muddled to me, in the last 15 minutes or so.

Edited by Attica

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